SIXTY YEARS AGO, Brown vs. Board of Education held that it was unconstitutional to have separate public schools for black and white students. Fifty years ago, a landmark piece of U.S. civil rights legislation was enacted that outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. By design it was to end, among other important things, educational racial inequities by eliminating separate educational experiences based on race.
Yet today, no matter how we view the data, children of color, especially African-American boys, show unequal levels of achievement—well below their white classmates. Data from the National Association for Educational Progress (NAEP) shows 38 years of limited-to-no change in rates of achievement for African-American and Latino children. Schools across the country are still distinctly segregated by race, and the willful interest and resolve to lead on these issues remains sluggish.
Overcoming systemic racial achievement disparities among children in our public schools is an overarching moral imperative of our day.
How is it that we cannot collectively rupture this trajectory—more than half a century later—“with all deliberate speed”? As an educational leader I find myself focused on these questions: Are those invested in educating our children interested enough? Do we actually know how to educate all students equitably? Where is the resolve among us to make lasting change for all children? I believe that, if we are interested, we’ll learn. And that once we know how, we can change this narrative—but only if we are resolved to insist on positive change no matter the cost.
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